I have an app because of course, I do. I’m a product of my time. The app is called “Stoic” and it’s rather impressive. Within its electronic parameters it has not only several essayswritten by Massimo Pigliucci, a professor of philosophy, but a variety of Stoic texts: Letters from a Stoic by Seneca; Meditation by Marcus Aurelius; and The Enchiridion and The Discourses by Seneca. So much information and inspiration contained in one little icon. I could be educating and enlightening myself near constantly. It makes the time I spend on Toon Town seem wasted.
The app also has a scheduling function; within it, one can schedule practices like morning and evening meditations. I find it quite helpful especially in the evening when I’m wont to put off my daily reflection and gratitude practice in favour of almost anything else. Prompts about interesting things to think about also pop up. I found this one particularly relevant:
Contemplation of the Ideal Man (or Woman).
Create a list of actual role models, past or present, and analyze what makes them ideal. Find the best qualities of these individuals and discard any negative character flaws. You can also do the opposite of contemplating the ideal man. Contemplate the worst type of human being imaginable and strive to avoid being like that.
I came across the prompt while sitting in the tire shop waiting for new all-seasons to be mounted, a gift from my father I had trouble accepting. I do not accept aid with grace, a quality I should perhaps seek to find in role models I emulate, at least if the prompt is to be believed.
Ironic, however, that I was reading it while out. Out is difficult for me; I was channeling my inner Jennifer Lopez while there. She is my go-to for emulation when I’m feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed, and anxious. We are of an age and that helps me connect, plus her confidence and belief in herself are inspiring. I get that I only see her public persona, and perhaps her inner life is as confusing and conflicted as my own, but emulating what I see is helpful.
Still, I liked the ideas contained in the prompt. And sitting and thinking are two things I do well.
I came up with some names but this is not, I think, a finite list. Even as I write, more names pop into my head. What about Madame Currie? What about Laura Ingalls Wilder? What about Auntie Mame and Brené Brown?
We are the sum of a great many influences, which makes the idea of a unique and totally separate self somewhat ridiculous. We are made up of bits and pieces of this or that influence, so why not stack the deck and grow our characters with qualities from individuals we admire?
Jennifer Lopez – for the aforementioned reasons and also because of her body. Shallow but there you are; the body is still an area of struggle for me and I need better models to emulate. Yes, for the average person JLo’s body is somewhat unrealistic in its muscular definition but it’s also not an emaciated body. Considering I spent a great deal of my life admiring and seeking to emulate bodies that had knees as the widest part of the leg, I will take this to be, if not a win, then an evolution in the correct direction.
Julia Sugarbaker – a character from the long-ago television series Designing Women, Julia never failed to speak her mind or enforce her boundaries. She was pointed, forthright, eloquent, and elegant. She was always polished and put together. And, she had grace, that hard-to-define characteristic you know when you see. If you have a chance and four or so hours to spare, watching her monologues on YouTube can be inspiring. “Killing all the right people” is a personal favourite I’ve linked here.
Thich Nhat Hanh and Marcus Aurelius – they are concerned with the good both in themselves and in the world at large. They see the bigger picture, see the connections. They appreciate what is and isn’t in our control They understand that we are less than we could be and the heights to which we can aspire are impressive. They seek to live virtuous lives, being true to the philosophies and beliefs they admire and follow.
My mother – for her elegance, her commitment to living in the now and not obsessing over the past, and for her determination to make the most of her current reality despite numerous health considerations.
Anne of Green Gables – because she believed in the good and the beautiful. Because she believed in the magical and the fanciful. Because she remained determinedly optimistic in the face of struggles, challenges, and setbacks.
Geneen Roth – because of her commitment to helping women overcome issues with food and body hatred. For her work on how we conflate emotional issues with food. Because she is the first person I believed when she wrote it was possible to break free from an eating disorder even though sustained recovery didn’t come for me until long after after I first read “Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating”.
Stephen Hawking – because he was a very smart man who, no matter what, kept learning.
Katherine Hepburn – because she’s Katherine Hepburn: funny, articulate, graceful, elegant, principled, intelligent, honourable, athletic, and basically awesome. Plus, she wears pants well.
None of these people are perfect. They have flaws and foibles and struggles. No doubt they have when they want to give up and chuck it all. No doubt they have days when they feel small and worthless and horrible. Setting aside that piece of reality, however, the people in this list do embody attributes and qualities I want more of in my own life.
Who do you admire and why?